Missouri Heads to Federal Court to Defend Abortion Ban Protecting Babies From Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 21, 2021   |   11:41AM   |   Washington, DC

Missouri will have another chance to defend its 2019 law to protect unborn babies from abortion before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court recently agreed to hear the case after a three-judge panel on the Eighth Circuit ruled against the law in June, the AP reports. The exact date of the hearing is not yet known.

The Missouri Stands For the Unborn Act bans discriminatory abortions based on an unborn baby’s sex, race or Down syndrome diagnosis, and bans abortions completely once Roe v. Wade is overturned.

It also prohibits abortions after eight weeks, once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. Additionally, the law includes incremental stages to ban abortions after 14 weeks, 18 weeks or 20 weeks if the earlier bans are overturned in court. It also requires that both parents be notified before an underage girl has an abortion.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit soon after the law passed, and the courts have refused to allow Missouri to enforce it.

In a statement, Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said the court’s decision to re-hear the case is a “troubling signal” for the future of abortion. Planned Parenthood runs the only abortion facility in the state.

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“We have long said the fight to protect abortion access in Missouri is far from over,” Rodríguez said. “The Eighth Circuit’s sudden change to reconsider Missouri’s sweeping abortion ban — one the court said was unconstitutional — is just another troubling signal in a long line of threats to our reproductive freedom.”

After the initial ruling in June, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the law and resolve a circuit court split about whether states may prohibit eugenic abortions that discriminate against unborn babies because of certain traits, such as Down syndrome.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a similar law in Ohio in April, but the Eighth Circuit ruled against another Down syndrome abortion ban in Arkansas in January. The Seventh Circuit also ruled against another Indiana law in 2018.

“Unborn children with Down syndrome are aborted at epidemic rates,” Schmitt’s petition tells the Supreme Court. “In the face of this genocidal crisis, Missouri and at least 11 other states have enacted laws restricting the eugenic abortion of the disabled, especially those with Down syndrome. In 2019, this Court declined to review the Seventh Circuit’s decision invalidating one of these laws—Indiana’s—because no circuit split yet existed. Since then, a clear and well-developed split of authority has emerged.”

According to Missouri health statistics, 1,471 abortions were done in 2019 in the state.

Unborn babies with Down syndrome especially are targeted for abortions, with abortion rates as high as 100 percent in some countries after a prenatal diagnosis.

In 1973, the Supreme Court took away states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion through Roe v. Wade, and instead allowed abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.

However, the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. The Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization focuses on the question of “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortion are unconstitutional.” The court is scheduled to hear the case in October.